Assorted scribblings of a dog-eared music journalist

Muzik | Album | August 1997


You can't overestimate the importance of Primal Scream in the grand scheme of groovy things. Which probably sounds stupid to anyone whose knowledge of the band only extends as far back as their last album, "Give Out But Don't Give Up". It was difficult
to believe these were the same guys responsible for the swoonsome "Screamadelica" at the beginning of the decade, the guys who stomped down the barriers between dance and rock like nobody else ever before. Or since.

So where does "Vanishing Point" fit in? Well, in some ways, you could be forgiven for thinking it was no more of a dance record than "Give Out...". After all, the guest musicians do include Glen Matlock, the geezer Sid Vicious replaced in the Sex Pistols, and one of the cuts is a cover of Motorhead's eponymous anthem. But what moves this record on up, if not on a par with "Screamadelica" then certainly just one shot behind, is the remarkable spirit of adventure that runs throughout. And, yes, in case you're wondering, you can wiggle your arse to huge chunks of it.

Against every odd, "Motorhead" is a good example. It isn't simply "Rocks Off" with a faded Harley Davidson patch stitched on its back. Oh, it's dirty enough (most of "Vanishing Point" is actually pretty dirty), but the turbo-charged, technofied industrial beats are totally 1997. The vibe isn't dissimilar to "Kowalskl", the first single to be lifted from the album. The second single, the lullaby-ish "Star", is something else, though. Think summer, think sea, think falling in love. Incidentally, it features Augustus Pablo, the legendary Jamaican melodica player. A rare honour, as it's apparently the first time he's agreed to appear on another artist's record.
Elsewhere, there's everything from freeform jazz to swamp blues, from stomp-a-long hoedowns to noise-ravaged ballads, from punk rock to hip hop. The beautiful clarinet and lo-fi loop of "Get Duffy" will lodge in your brain for weeks and "Trainspotting" (on which Andy Weatherall temporarily ousts Brendan Lynch from the production seat) pops a pink sweet in your mouth. Then slashes your face open. When the big beats of "If They Move, Kill 'Em" and the crunching "Stuka" storm in they will remind you of Primal Scream at their weightiest. The latter comes complete with a door bell courtesy of Joe "African Dub" Gibbs and the sound of the Luttwaffe in full-on let's-fuck-Poland mode.

As with "Screamadelica", to ask where "Vanishing Point" fits in is an absurd question. You might as well ask a chicken to referee the FA Cup Final. The problem is that every possible answer is a contradiction. It's very much of its time and yet quite probably timeless. Its head is twirling in the ether, but its toes are curled in the mud. One minute it's soothing and linear and glowing, the next it's gritty and twisted and dark. The end result is original, sure, yet there are countless stolen concepts, moments and atmospheres. It's everywhere and nowhere. Baby.

In short, it's a total mindfuck. The only certainty is that this group's place in the history book of late 20th century music is assured. While that isn't exactly new news (if there'd been no "Screamadelica", there'd have been no Oasis and no Chemical Brothers, at least not as we know them), the fact that "Vanishing Point" gives Primal Scream another couple of pages is a hell of an achievement. Welcome back, lads.

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